Okanagan Wine Nation: The Most Beautiful Place You’ve By no means Heard Of

This information to Okanagan Wine nation explores the area’s finest wines and the place they develop. Plus, for individuals who go to, a couple of journey ideas for the wine fanatic.

You’re about to get pissed off.

You’re about to search out out about an unbelievable wine area that you may’t style except you go there.

Why? Properly, Okanagan wines simply don’t journey removed from British Columbia. That stated, it’s properly well worth the journey to go to them!

(Oh, and these wines are shockingly reasonably priced too.)

Okanagan vineyards are surrounded by beautiful surroundings, reminiscent of this view over Blue Mountain Vineyards in South Okanagan. By Wine Folly

Most wine aficionados consider Canadian wine nation as ice wine nation. For probably the most half, they’re proper. About two thirds of the world’s ice wine manufacturing occurs in Canada.

Thus, Okanagan has repute for being “one other ice wine area of Canada.” This couldn’t be farther from the reality.

Okanagan Valley’s finest wines are dry purple and white wines.

Should you love Syrah, GSM Blends, proper financial institution Bordeaux (i.e. Merlot blends), the Okanagan Valley will shock you. On the world scale, Okanagan is a mecca for Chardonnay, Riesling, glowing wines, and Pinot Gris. (And sure, they make some ice wine too!)

Making wine right here is not any small feat. Okanagan wine nation lies on the outer limits of viticulture. It sits proper under the 50th parallel (that’s the identical as Champagne, btw). But not like Champagne, Okanagan is dry, sunny, and scorching.

Nonetheless, the rising season is kind of brief. So, how do they ripen purple grapes?

For one, there are lengthy sunlight hours in summer season months. (It’s mild out properly after 9pm!) Moreover, the 83-mile lengthy (134 km) Lake Okanagan moderates temperature extremes in the summertime and winter.

The perfect half is that the area has an extended historical past in agriculture. Earlier than this space was recognized for wine, it was well-known for peaches, cherries, and apples. That is necessary as a result of it means there’s a strong agricultural basis which has developed over time.

The Wines of Okanagan


This was a shock for us. Syrah is understood to develop in heat, sunny climates like South Australia, South Africa, and the Northern Rhône Valley. In Okanagan, you’ll discover many of the finest wines develop within the South round Oliver and Osoyoos (“oh-soy-yoos”). One notable space for wine manufacturing is on the east aspect of Oliver, on Black Sage bench.

Okanagan Syrah tastes a lot nearer to what you’ll discover in cooler components of the Northern Rhône. The perfect examples exhibit flavors of purple cherry, dried cranberry, sage, and white pepper. Wines have medium-plus tannins, average acidity, and a candy cherry end. This isn’t your typical large, daring Syrah. It’s elegant and sometimes smells a bit meaty.

Bordeaux Blends

Extra surprises come from the Bordeaux blends made with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Whereas Cabernet Sauvignon appears to have bother right here, Merlot and Cabernet Franc just do nice on the jap benches of the lakes.

The Merlot is harking back to what you may discover in Bordeaux, however barely leaner and just a little fruitier. Flavors embrace candy cherry fruit, black currant, cocoa powder, tobacco and schistous moist gravel.

Lovers of the Loire will respect Okanagan Cabernet Franc for its flavors of dried pepper flakes, cherry sauce, cocoa powder, and average acidity. Although, the wines style riper and sweeter right here with extra strong, suede-like tannins.

Within the distance you may see Black Sage Bench in Oliver, BC – a well-liked spot for purple wine varieties in Okanagan.

Different Reds

In the mean time, the area is closely invested in Bordeaux-style purple blends. That is little question from excessive demand. That stated, the long run might inform a distinct story.

Pinot Noir

Who would suppose Pinot Noir might develop right here? Within the North, in East Kelowna, there’s a truthful quantity of powdery, chalk-like soil. The soil is so powdery in actual fact, that it’s unlikely phylloxera will survive right here. The Pinot Noir wines from this space will enchantment to those that love pure, elegant, fruity reds. Properly-made examples provide candy raspberry, cranberry, and pomegranate notes with excessive acidity and crunchy, inexperienced tannins (from complete cluster fermentation).

Syrah Blends

The areas with granite and volcanic sandy soils within the South and jap sides of the lake produce purple wines with excessive aromatics. These spots may truly be well-suited for GSM-blends (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) or multi-faceted CMS blends (Cabernet-Merlot-Syrah) such as you may discover in Priorat or Jap Washington.

Okanagan must be recognized for its excellent white wines.


Chardonnay is the place Okanagan is beginning to take world-class strides. It’s loads like Chablis, however with the kiss of oak.

Within the South, one of the best plantings are on the east aspect of the valley to keep away from the afternoon solar. These wines provide up aromas of ardour fruit, yellow apple, and apricot, with toasty notes of creme brûlée and lemon curd. Most notably, they’ve exceptional, mouth-watering acidity and barely style thick.

Within the North, Chardonnay does wonders in East Kelowna’s chalk-like soil. Wines are sometimes fairly lean, with aromas of inexperienced apple, white blossoms, gun flint, and pine needle. Count on sky-high acidity balanced with refined lanolin and hazelnut notes from growing older in impartial oak puncheons.


Riesling might undoubtedly be higher recognized from the Okanagan. The fashion is far drier than most, giving Riesling a possibility to take a seat alongside different extra in style dry white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. A few of the finest websites for this grape are in East Kelowna or within the South, from sheltered vineyards on the west aspect.

Assume kiwis, limes, and leesy richness in your glass of Okanagan Riesling. If in search of a comparability, look to Grosse Gewaches (dry German Riesling) from the Rheingau. Or, possibly even a Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace, France.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is a standby in Okanagan. It’s exhausting to do fallacious with this grape. The perfect examples are a number of the most aromatically expressive Pinot Gris on the market. Flavors are wealthy with honeysuckle, orange blossom, and peach, with sky excessive acidity, and a lean, tingly end.

Different Whites

Regardless that most lovers go for purple wines, Okanagan must be recognized for its excellent white and glowing wines. The area constantly hits all of the marks together with excessive acidity, fruitiness, and floral aromatics.

Glowing Wines

Given the rising season is so brief, many growers decide grapes with low pH (excessive acidity) and produce glowing wines. The glowing wines from Okanagan have superb potential, with the flexibility to age 15+ years (when well-made) and develop refined hazelnut-cream notes.

Sauvignon Blanc

One other bombshell. The perfect examples are usually from vineyards protected against the afternoon solar. Wines have daring aromas of ardour fruit and pasilla pepper, with excessive acidity and an extended tingly end.


The place Viognier from Paso Robles and the Northern Rhône is oily and wealthy with flavors of tangerine and vanilla, Okanagan Viognier is lean and minerally. Think about flavors of key lime, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and crushed rocks, supported by sour-patch acidity.

Fragrant Varieties

They might not be in style, however fragrant whites, together with Muscat and Gewürztraminer, are completely at house within the Okanagan. If somebody figures out find out how to make an incredible, semi-bubbly Moscato right here, it’ll blow up!

Vineyards overlooking Osoyoos Lake off of Radio Tower Highway in Okanagan. By Wine Folly

When You Go to Okanagan Wine Nation

What’s shocking about Okanagan is that not solely is it stunningly lovely, it’s additionally shockingly reasonably priced. As a wine nation vacation spot, Okanagan continues to be very a lot undiscovered. Listed here are some issues to count on while you go.

  • Wine tastings run on common round $ 5–$ 10 Canadian ($ four–$ eight USD!) and everybody waives the charge should you purchase a bottle.
  • Nearly all of Okanagan’s 11,000 winery acres are proper throughout the US border round Osoyoos and Oliver.
  • The world could be very seasonal. It’s snowy within the winter with little or no vacationer visitors, and jam-packed (and hot-as-hell) in the summertime.
  • Late spring and early fall are the best occasions to go to for a wine fanatic (finest option to keep away from different seasonal visitors).
  • Lots of the wineries even have mattress and breakfasts, trip leases, and onsite eating places.
  • Past wine, the area has superb climbing, backpacking, biking, snowboarding, water sports activities, and tenting.
  • By way of high quality, some wineries are excellent, whereas many are simply common. Make sure to do your analysis.
  • No matter you do, ensure you deliver one thing to maintain your bottles cool.
  • It’s windy at night time and there are many mosquitos by the lake, so be ready!

Nope. This isn’t the Mosel Valley or Priorat. Gravely granite soils in Okanagan Falls, BC. By Wine Folly

Okanagan Terroir

For individuals who like to speak grime….

The Okanagan Valley was as soon as an enormous glacier. The soils are principally sandy with white clay-silt on prime of gravelly glacial sands with limestone, granite and different gravels of historic volcanic origin.

What does that really imply? Properly, should you had been to sum them up, wines produced on these soils usually have excessive fragrant depth, minerality, and extra refined tannins.

The area’s location just below the 50th parallel means it has a brief rising season. Grapes quickly develop sweetness in the course of the day but it surely’s chilly at night time. This can be a basic instance of diurnal shift and is among the the explanation why Okanagan wines have mouth-zapping acidity.

In fact, ripeness ranges can nonetheless get out of hand; we observed unstable acidity in some vineyard packages.

Winery soils within the Okanagan are sometimes sandy-loam or silt over granite gravels. They’re properly drained and produce wines with excessive fragrant depth. By Wine Folly

So far as winemaking and viticulture goes, the Okanagan continues to be being found out. Fortuitously, Canada has a historical past of welcoming winemakers from throughout, together with locations like New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and France. The skin expertise brings perspective and wine high quality improves with every classic.

For these transferring in the direction of natural and biodynamic wines, this space has good potential. The excessive winds, lack of phylloxera, and excessive seasons deter a variety of pests.

One intelligent method generally employed in Okanagan wine nation is selecting grapes at a number of factors all through harvest. Then, they’re blended collectively to create a single, extra balanced wine. Wines made with this methodology show each ripe flavors and excessive pure acidity.

Tantalus winemaker, David Paterson, reveals off his Riesling and Syrah ice wine. By Wine Folly

One other widespread observe right here is the usage of bigger oak puncheons within the Okanagan Valley. This could be a standard selection (primarily based on economics) or because of the truth that the wines are usually extra elegant and don’t want as a lot oak. Many producers additionally enlist the usage of American oak for his or her purple wines.

One final quirk in regards to the space is that it’s close to unimaginable to guesstimate the age of a winery. Extreme winters periodically kill the vines all the way in which all the way down to the basis. The vines often survive, however should develop a brand new trunk. Thus, you received’t see too many gnarly vines (even when they really are previous).

Laura, Johnny, and Madeline snap a shot collectively outdoors of The Hatch – a negotiant-style vineyard in East Kelowna, BC. By Wine Folly

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